HB 300-Improving High School Graduation Rates of Pregnant and Parenting Students
Governor Susana Martinez has signed HB 300, establishing policies that provide excused absences for pregnant and parenting students. This legislation sets a statewide standard that includes a 10-day excused absence for the documented birth of a child, and four excused absences, per semester, when pregnancy or caring for a child necessitates missing class. Responsible young parents who use this policy will be required to document all absences and complete makeup work in a timely manner, according to a recent press release.
Public Defender Bill
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico applauded Governor Martinez’s signing of HB 483, the bill that creates a fully independent and fully funded New Mexico Public Defender Department (PDD). Previously, the executive branch controlled the PDD.
After voters overwhelmingly approved of Constitutional Amendment 5, the ballot measure that amended Article 6 of the state Constitution to establish the PDD as an independent state agency. The legislature was required to enact legislation to implement the changes. With HB 483, the New Mexico State Legislature set the terms and qualifications for the new independent and non-partisan board, which will oversee the new PDD.
The independent Public Defender Department amendment was endorsed by more than 100 public organizations, officials, judges, prosecutors, attorneys and community leaders across New Mexico, as well as the state’s three largest newspapers, according to a recent press release.
Gov. Martinez Signs
PERA Pension Reform Bill
Governor Susana Martinez validated a pension reform package that addresses the Public Employee Retirement Association’s $6.2 billion unfunded liability by signing SB 27, according to state officials.
“We are grateful that Governor Martinez recognizes the urgency of pension reform,” said PERA Board Chair Patricia (Patty) French. “I applaud her farsightedness and willingness to be part of the solution.”
SB 27 was the result of a Legislative mandate that the solution to PERA’s unfunded liability be one of shared sacrifice from all membership groups including retirees, current active members and future members.
During the 2013 legislative session, the Governor expressed concerns about a proposed increase in employer contributions. Sen. George K. Muñoz (D-Gallup) and Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela (D-Santa Fe) – co-sponsors of SB 27 – came up with a compromise bill that reduced the 1.5 percent employer contribution request to 0.4 percent beginning in FY 2015.
SB 27 also had the unprecedented support of the Public Employees Retirement Association Board of Trustees, the New Mexico Association of Counties, the New Mexico Municipal League, the Retired Public Employees of New Mexico (RPENM) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
Significant pension reform changes include a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) reduction from three percent to two percent for most current retirees and future retirees.
Current active members will see an employee contribution increase of 1.5 percent, an increased pension maximum to 90 percent and a graduated seven full-calendar year eligibility period to receive a COLA in most cases.
New general members hired on or after July 1 will have to work longer to be eligible for a pension and will have a longer waiting period to be eligible to receive a COLA. The final average salary period used to calculate a pension and the vesting period to be eligible to receive a pension are also extended.
New hires in the public safety plans will have the seven-year COLA eligibility period, a five-year period to calculate a pension and a vesting period of six years instead of the current five years.
“SB 27 is not a perfect bill but it sets PERA on a path to long term solvency and does so fairly and responsibly,” Board Chair French said.
Changes in SB 27 are effective July 1.
First Appointees to
Health Insurance Exchange
Board of Directors
Speaker of the House, W. Ken Martinez, and Senate President Pro Tem, Mary Kay Papen, held a news conference in Las Cruces, recently to name six members of the New Mexico Health Insurance Board of Directors, according to officials.
The six members are Dr. Martin Hickey, CEO of New Mexico Health Connections; David Shaw, Hospital Administrator and CEO of Nor-Lea General Hospital; Jason Sandel, Vice Chairman and Consumer Member of the New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool, Dr. Larry E. Leaming; Respiratory Therapist and CEO of Roosevelt General Hospital, Patsy Romero; COO of Easter Seals, El Mirador; and state President of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and Teresa Gomez, President and CEO of Futures for Children and past Deputy Secretary of New Mexico Indian Affairs Department.
“Time is of the essence, that’s why it was so important to get the right people in place to steer this monumental undertaking,” said Speaker Martinez. “I am confident the people we have appointed will be able to deliver a one-stop shop for affordable healthcare that will meet the federal requirements. More importantly, the exchange they help to establish will make for a much more healthy New Mexico.”
The NM Health Insurance Exchange is part of the federal Affordable Care Act and will allow individuals to comparison shop for plans offered by health insurance companies on the exchange. By Oct. 1, the NM Health Insurance Exchange must start taking applications from qualified individuals and qualified employers for qualified health plans. The NM Health Insurance Exchange must be up and running by January 2014.